Report by Charlie Dickinson
It was a very encouraging start to the Surrey league season with 12 Belles running on a very warm sunny day on our own Wimbledon Common course, rescheduled by host club TTH who were unable to use the playing fields venue because of a rugby tournament. The Belgrave course was hard, fast and dry even in the woods with a short 2.7km initial lap before the usual longer circuit. No surprise then that four out of the Belles A team scorers were 800m/1500m runners. The team – featuring several debutantes alongside the iconic Belles – finished a very close 4th on the day with the B team 16th out of 30 teams. It was wonderful too to have Belgrave President and track star Jodie Albrow supporting the team effort.
However, the story of the day has to be the first league win by Saron Haileslase. It was a very unusual race at the head of the field with initially a group of five, then four together until close to the finish. Usually the field gets strung out by at least half way. It was a different order too from last year with New Zealand international Triathlete and ex Surrey Champion Gillian Sanders and the promising Hannah Irwin from newly promoted Guildford pushing a fast and furious pace. This was too hot for Katy Hedgethorne of THH who last year regularly finished in the top three or four. On Saturday she was 8th. Saron was content to sit behind the leaders alongside Lauren Major of THH. The leaders made a push up the hill from the lake up to the Windmill on the second lap and possibly thought they had dropped Saron. But she and several others in the team had trained on this hill with Ed Auden and Will Cockerell regularly throughout the autumn and knew how to conserve her energy to make up the distance once they got to the 1km long straight path heading for the finish. So, the same four runners were still together as they neared the finish but then with about 200m to go, Saron simply changed gear and flew away for a very convincing 35m win. After all, how many of the others can run 400m in under 60 seconds?
The hugely talented Katie-Ellen French also had a very strong run finishing in the top twenty despite lack of mileage since the end of a terrific track season. Then two incredible performances from Keri Mackenzie and Mhairi Hall who had both endured very long periods of injury and painstaking rehabilitation throughout the spring and summer months. They both gave everything in the race finishing close together in 36th and 38th position. Closing the five to score A team was Stephanie Hewitt who bagged a top 50 spot and proved her hard and committed training is most definitely paying off.
Heading the B team was Emma Howsham, another of the Belles promising new runners and a huge improvement from her previous race on this same course in January. It was so good to see Becky O’Kill in the team again visiting from America and together with Iona Cousland combining the race with their New York marathon training. Sandwiched between them came Jurgita Levertaviciute who not only ran very well but brought the team an amazing cheesecake for after the race. Then Mimi Corden-Lloyd in her first cross country race for two years, another who is improving all the time, just ahead of the experienced Felicity Cole.
With four runners in the first 8 and five in 25, THH swept the team race but the Belles should be encouraged by finishing 4th and only 8 points from second place. So important too to have the support of a strong B team who contributed to a wonderful team spirit helped on the day by captain Megan James and Fiona Maddocks. Thanks too to the ever-reliable Don Anderson, Ed Auden and Giles Simons who were all on marshalling duties. The Albrow family, Alan Petrie and Mhairi’s mum, dad plus their dog who did a great job entertaining Simon, also deserve a special mention.
RESULTS; 1. S. Haileselase (Belgrave) 25;25, 2. G. Sanders (Ran) 25;32, 3. H. Irwin (Guildford) 25;34, 4. L. Major (THH) 24;41, ….19. K-E. French 27;44, 36. K. MacKenzie 28;34, 38. M. Hall 38;39, 49. S. Hewitt 28;57, 60. E. Howsham 29;22, 71. R. O’Kill 29:51, 73. J. Levertaviciute 29;59, 79. I. Cousland 30;15, 82. M. Corden-Lloyd 30;22, 89. F. Cole 30;40, 164. J. Albrow 34;21.
TEAMS; 1. THH 48, 2. SLH 135, 3. CC 140, 4. Belgrave Harriers A, 143, …..16. Belgrave Harriers B, 365.